Rouse trial delayed as lawyer withdraws
There is another delay in the most recent trial of a North Kentville man on sex-related charges after his lawyer quit the case Nov. 26.
Darrin Phillip Rouse was in Kentville Supreme Court on that date for a scheduled hearing on whether he was fit to stand trial on charges of sexual assault, sexual touching, invitation to sexual touching and drug trafficking. The sex charges involved a girl under the age of 16.
But before that hearing could even get started, Rouse’s lawyer told Justice Pierre Muise that he was applying to withdraw from the case.
Jonathan Hughes said the application was the result of a “confluence of events that took place between the last time we were in court seeking to have the fitness assessment done. Effectively, it’s just an irreparable breakdown in the solicitor-client relationship, and Mr. Rouse and I have had several discussions. As a result of those discussions, I don’t believe I would be able to mount a fulsome defence for Mr. Rouse.”
Rouse, 52, told Muise that he wasn’t aware of the application until Nov. 23, when he was transferred to the provincial jail in Burnside from a federal institution, where he is serving a seven-year sentence for sex-related crimes involving three women, and drug trafficking.
“I just know there has been a lack of communication there, and that’s been probably the big problem,” he said.
He said Hughes was pretty clear that he didn’t think he could stay on the case, and “it is what it is. There has been a difference of opinion on a couple of things.”
Muise granted Hughes’ application.
After Hughes left, the court dealt with the application by Rouse to be declared unfit to stand trial. He had claimed that an assault in jail and an alleged injury during an arrest by RCMP had left him unable to remember anything from the time of the alleged offence.
He said he didn’t agree with the manner of the assessment, and that his memory loss is genuine and by reason of a mental disorder, specifically PTSD, from the alleged injuries.
Muise said the report says the lack of memory alleged by Rouse “does not correspond to any criteria or lack of memory that is described in science with regard to a psychiatric illness.”
The report also said the results of the assessment included a test of memory malingering, the results of which “were exceptionally unusual and highly suggestive of extremely exaggerated memory difficulties or malingering.”
The report also said that Rouse’s testing indicated “he deliberately chose the wrong answers to create an ostensible memory problem.”
The author of the report wrote that “there is little doubt ... that any memory problems that he claims to have are either greatly exaggerated or entirely a fabrication intended to assist in achieving a secondary gain of some kind.”
The withdrawal of Hughes as Rouse’s lawyer means another delay in the proceedings. The trial was supposed to start in the spring until Rouse fired his original lawyer, who like Hughes was working through a Legal Aid certificate. It was delayed again after Hughes was retained so he could get up to speed, and then a third time last month when the fitness application was filed. It was supposed to start Nov. 28, but has now been moved to February.
Crown attorney Mike MacKenzie told court that because Rouse is now without a lawyer and essentially self-represented, he is applying this week to have the court appoint a lawyer to cross-examine the complainant when the trial finally starts. Those applications are always allowed to prevent sexual assault victims from being cross-examined by the person they are accusing.
Rouse was opposed to that, saying he needs a lawyer to represent him for the entire case, not just cross-examining the complainant. “How is that fair to me?” he said. He also said February may not be enough time for him to find a new lawyer. But Muise told Rouse that because he refused to waive any claims of undue delay in the case, it must be heard within 30 months and the February dates are the latest possible ones.
Muise said it made sense to have someone appointed now, in case Rouse can’t get a new lawyer before February.
Rouse grew frustrated through the discussions, at one point saying, “I don’t know why you don’t just sentence me today, for God’s sake. You might as well, because you’re just going to proceed without me anyway.” He then loudly asked MacKenzie “how much (jail) time do you want?”
Muise cautioned Rouse several times about swearing and using other inappropriate language in the courtroom.